The war continues in Afghanistan and Iraq with no end in sight. Surveys show the American public is depressed over job security and the ongoing attack on benefits. Canadians are making jokes about the value of our dollar.
Against this depressing backdrop, the Turkey Committee also has suffered significant setbacks in its talent pool over the past 12 months.
Dan Monson, the failed men's basketball coach at Minnesota, resigned early in the 2006-07 season and was allowed to sneak away to Long Beach State without ever claiming the Grand Turkey.
Terry Ryan, the Twins' general manager, put himself in position to take home the golden gobbler with his most ineffective season at the helm of the local ballclub. Then he stepped down in September, thus eliminating the possibility that the rewarding of a Grand Turkey could serve its real purpose:
To have the winners look inward at their errant ways and set a course of action that will allow them to perform better.
There was other Turkeydom attrition:
The Timberwolves' purge included getting rid of three major knotheads in Troy Hudson, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. The Wild dumped Manny Fernandez, ending the chance that his foul mood as a backup goalie could have become fowl-winning.
Also on the hockey front, coach Laura Halldorson was on the cusp of the impossible - turning the Gophers women's team into a mediocrity - before she had the good taste to resign.
The VIPs Turkey Committee members responded to these losses by pecking through the debris to come up with a list of banquet invitees that we can only hope the audience finds succulent. Introducing the 2007 Turkeys:
- The Piranhas. The way the 2007 season went for lead Piranha Nick Punto, Jason Bartlett should be thankful Nick didn't panic while that commercial was being filmed in the fish tank, grab on for dear life and drown both of them. After the miracle of 2006, it was basically a lousy year for the Twins' slap hitters, including a guest Piranha, Joe (Big Slappy) Mauer.
- Nick Saban. Here's proof that it's never too late to get a Turkey invitation. The Alabama football coach was a fringe candidate after his bailout on the Dolphins, but comparing last Saturday's loss to Louisiana Monroe to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 gets Nick his place at the table.
- Troy Williamson. A grandmother's funeral is not a legitimate excuse for a nine-day absence for a professional athlete. The Vikings' mistake was not sticking to the original decision to withhold Williamson's weekly check.
- Bill Lester. Nice guy, this Bill, but as the long-serving executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, he has interjected no common sense into the conversation for a new Vikings stadium. Asked how his group could be pitching such an obscenely expensive vision for a replacement Dome, Lester said, "This is what the Vikings would agree to." Next time Lester and the commissioners get together with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, they ought to sing him the chorus of "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
- Johnnie Morton. The former NFL receiver received considerable attention before his mixed martial arts debut in June. He was knocked out in 38 seconds. Then, five days later, Morton was suspended when steroids showed up in his pre-fight drug test. Would you expect anything more from an ex-Detroit Lion?
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. The most overrated sports hero in America left his stepmother's racing team in high class fashion, trying to crash every No. 8 she owned before moving to Hendrick Motorsports, the Yankees of racing, in 2008.
- Derek Boogaard. He runs a summer fight camp for hockey players, makes more threats toward opponents than the Russian mafia, and then whines that the referees look at him more closely than other players during his three 30-second shifts a night for the Wild.
- Marion Jones and Barry Bonds. Perhaps Jones can convince Bonds that confession is good for the soul as they sit together at today's feast.
- Gerald Poindexter. This is the county attorney in Virginia who figures that going to federal prison on charges of dogfighting wouldn't be enough punishment for Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick.
Poin-dexter decided what justice demanded was some good old Dixie double jeopardy.
- Eric Decker. What a season it was for our beloved rodents: Even the Gophers' best football player finishes in indignity by punching a Wisconsin defender in the groin.
- Don Lucia. He was the first runner-up last year, for guiding his Gophers hockey team to the most embarrassing postseason loss (Holy Cross, 4-3 in overtime) in the history of Minnesota sports. Certainly, the Don deserves another table setting today for having his choice of recruits and winding up with the lowest graduation rate in Division I hockey. A reminder: Early pro signees don't count against the graduation rate, unless they are not in good academic standing when they leave school.
- Brandon Smith. This young basketballer was thrown off his Minneapolis
Henry team as a senior, suspended at Minnesota by interim coach Jim Molinari and tossed off the Gophers permanently before this season by new coach Tubby Smith. And now Brandon is looking for another school in order to hit the very difficult superfecta of disgruntled coaches.
We now require this announcement before getting to the big honor: The Chairman has taken the unusual action of granting a pardon to a pair of choice turkeys.
The hand-spitting, handshaking Little Leaguers from Coon Rapids were on the tentative guest list, but an executive decision was made to acknowledge adolescent stupidity and keep the lads off the chopping block.
In another break with tradition, the Turkey Chairman decided not to honor a runner-up at today's banquet. That's because the winner so quickly established himself as a Turkeydom powerhouse that there was no major challenger.
This man swept in from an NFL assistant's job and shot off his mouth as if he were the second coming of Bobby Bowden. He talked of reviving a proud football tradition and winning championships, and then in 2007 produced more losses than in any season in this great school's history.
The Chairman was particularly offended by this blowhard, since he had been raised in a home where rooting for this team was as much of a Saturday ritual in the fall as pursuing ringnecks.
There's no big surprise here: The 2007 Turkey of the Year is Charlie Weis of Notre Dame.